In a year when equality for LGBTQ Americans seems less a guarantee and more something that could be snatched away, queer community members and allies have wondered how to celebrate.
One great way to do it in Philly: Forget about the manufactured controversy at Target and support local LGBTQ entrepreneurs, avoiding the “rainbow capitalism” that infuses some corporate Pride Month promotions.
We asked readers for some of their favorite LGBTQ-owned Philly businesses, and chose a selection of 10 vendors, makers, creatives, and entrepreneurs to highlight.
Scroll down to check out these pick, expert bakers to lizard mongers to people who shoot lasers at stuff to make art.
Lizards? Houseplants? Out and proud owners? If this is your idea of a party, consider East Passyunk’s ILLExotics, which bills itself as “not your average reptile shop.” Worth noting: The shopkeepers go out of their way to respect wildlife and the dignity of all creatures, coldblooded or otherwise, breeding all their lizards and amphibians in house or through “other reputable and vetted breeders.” The store refuses to sell wild caught animals, so your newest friend isn’t just green, he’s ethical, too.
1704-06 East Passyunk Ave., illexotics.com
Cake Life Bake Shop
“Best friends bake the best cakes,” said Fishtown’s Cake Life, the “proudly woman- and trans-owned” brainchild of best friends Lily Fischer and Nima Etemadi. If their names sound familiar, it’s probably because they appeared on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” three times wowing judges and viewers alike — “and winning!” they note on their website. The duo started working out of the landmark Globe Dye Works building in 2013. Since 2016 you can find them right on Frankford Avenue. Of particular note is that Fischer and Etemadi have baked Beyonce — yes, Mrs. Carter herself — a birthday cake twice.
1306 Frankford Ave. cakelifebakeshop.com
This charming Mt. Airy mainstay boasts of “delicious coffee, with a side of community” — and that might be an understatement. With a dizzying array of events and a welcoming, friendly atmosphere, Avenues has a dedication to its neighborhood that’s authentically Philadelphian. But it’s not a provincial spot: the cafe is both welcoming of locals and a destination for BIPOC and LGBTQ community members from afar. With standard artisanal cafe fare and some offbeat specialties — red velvet coffee, anyone? — this is one of those heartening silver linings from the pandemic. The cafe started during the global catastrophe “as two friends searched for the next chapter in their lives.” Relatable.
7201 Germantown Ave. avenuescafe.co
An entrepreneur and consultant, Sharif Pendleton’s work combines creative vision and technical expertise — and lasers! — which means he often speaks at local design gatherings and workshops. A self-described “nerd who asks too many questions,” Pendleton uses the pew-pew to create “tongue-in-cheek accessories, innovative artwork, and pop culture-infused decor.” One example? The RBG earrings. Along with their stylish kitsch, the company provides custom laser and engraving services to boot. His website teases a potential forthcoming storefront in Northern Liberties.
The list wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the mavens of Midtown Village — shrewd branding we can’t get mad at if it helps employ LGBTQ people (besides we’ll call it the Gayborhood anyway, IYKYK, right?). Before Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s launched their string of successful restaurants, the biz partners started with this charming shop. Opened in 2002 and still going strong (!), it features Philly-themed greeting cards and other ephemera, along with a dash of LGBTQ kitsch and lots of droll accoutrement. Often packed with people browsing for a laugh or looking for the perfect gift or souvenir.
107 S. 13th St. openhouseliving.com
Duross & Langel
“Our goal is to offer you an amazing experience,” said cofounder Steve Duross about his boutique brand. The biz started in 1999 as the Philadelphia Soap Company at a kiosk in the front of Duross’s Locust Street salon. The idea is pretty simple: Provide high quality, original natural and organic spa and skin care products that people will love. Today, the store also includes candles and natural perfumes. Pretty much everything is developed at the in-house workshop and laboratory, where creators pull natural ingredients together and turn them into beauty products.
240 S. 11th St. durossandlangel.com
Crust Vegan Bakery
How many businesses showcase every employee, past and present, with their own mini-profile on the company website? This edifying bakery in Manayunk touts itself as “women owned and Philadelphia based.” Proprietors grow community connections as the (completely animal-free) dough rises with regular donations to groups focusing on animal rights, human liberation, the arts, and others. The bakery offers catering, grab-and-go treats, and made-to-order cakes.
4409 Main St. crustveganbakery.com
Brown Street Cafe
Best known for his work as a movement artist, Zane Booker has been dancing since the age of seven. His latest work isn’t on stage; instead his creativity and drive are channeled to a place few would expect to find such artistry. Tucked inside the Island Avenue ShopRite is Brown Street Cafe, which sets itself apart from the typical in-store caffeine cart as a community space meant to uplift the local neighborhood through collaboration. Booker also gets to show off his culinary talents, which reportedly rival his lifelong aptitude for the kinesthetic arts.
2946 Island Ave. square.com
South Street Art Mart
Work by nearly 200 local artists fills this shop that describes itself as having “DIY roots and punk sensibility,” which makes it perfect for the South Street neighborhood. As with many good things, the Art Mart was unexpected — it just kind of happened after people realized how rad the concept was. Originally intended as a holiday pop-up, overwhelming support from the community, plus some help from the South Street Headhouse District, led to a permanent storfront. Proudly queer women- and Black-owned, the shop is open seven days per week.
530 S. 4th St. southstreetartmart.com
Danny’s Midnight Confessions
This classic adults-only shop served Philly’s sexually active population honorably through the pandemic, pivoting toward delivery and providing scheduled and masked in-store pickup. These days it’s back to normal hours — meaning it’s open 24/7, 365. Danny’s is LGBTQ owned, and employs local LGBTQ community members, making up a staff always ready for conversation and to help even the shyest of customers. Whether you’re there for lube, toys, cuffs, or video head cleaner, you’re sure to make a friend so long as you treat everyone, including yourself, with some respect.
133 S. 13th St. shopdannys.com